Use of the Welsh language in the Welsh Grand Committee at Westminster Contents

Appendix 2: Memorandum from the Clerk of the House

Use of Welsh in the Welsh Grand Committee at Westminster

1.In May 1996 the Procedure Committee reported on the Use of the Welsh Language in Parliamentary Proceedings in Wales.40 This set out the longstanding rule that the language of proceedings of the House and its committees is English. As my predecessor explained in evidence, proceedings of the House must be comprehensible to all Members and must therefore be in the only language which all Members are assumed to understand. The Resolution of the House of 5 June 1996 agreeing to the Committee’s proposals began with noting that “English is and should remain the language of this House”.41 Twenty years on, that remains the case.

Welsh Grand Committee

2.The Welsh Grand Committee comprises all Members representing Welsh constituencies, together with not more than five other Members nominated by the Committee of Selection. The quorum of the Committee is seven. Any Minister, being a Member of the House, may take part in the deliberations of the Committee and may make a motion, but may not vote or be counted in the quorum (Standing Order No. 102). Its most recent sitting was at Westminster on 3 February 2016, where the matter was raised of the ban on Members speaking Welsh in its proceedings at Westminster.42

3.Each sitting of the Committee (which may be held either at Westminster or in Wales) is fixed by an order of the House setting out the date, time and location of the sitting and the business to be transacted at it. A list of Welsh Grand Committee sittings since 1997 is at Annex 2.

4.On the recommendation of a former Procedure Committee,43 the House gave authority for Members to address the Committee in Welsh, and to change from English to Welsh or vice versa in the course of the same speech, at sittings of the Committee in Wales, with simultaneous interpretation from Welsh to English,44 subject to the qualifications that the Chair should have power to insist that a Member restrict himself to one language only and, if necessary, to specify which language that should be and that points of order should be raised only in English.45

5.The essential issues for the Procedure Committee are well set out in its predecessor Committee’s Third Report of 1995–96 (Annex 5). That Committee was swayed by the principle of the Welsh Language Act 1993 that in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality. While recognising that the Welsh Language Act 1993 did not apply to parliamentary proceedings, the Procedure Committee in 1996 was persuaded that there was a good case for this very narrow and constrained derogation from the general rule to be permitted (emphasis added).46 A subsequent Report by a successor Committee relaxed the operation of the derogation slightly, but did not challenge the restriction of the use of Welsh to sittings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales.47

Select committee witnesses at Westminster

6.In 2000, the Procedure Committee agreed to a “sensible and modest” proposal from the Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee that witnesses be permitted to speak Welsh in committee meetings at Westminster, with simultaneous translation. The Committee noted such a change would—

7.Welsh has also been used in joint meetings of the Welsh Affairs Committee and the committees of National Assembly for Wales under Standing Order No. 137A, as the National Assembly is obliged by statute to treat the English and Welsh languages on an equal basis.49

Use of Welsh: general

8.Over the past twenty years the House has thus moved incrementally and slowly from a position where English was the only language permitted to one where the use of Welsh is permitted in closely defined circumstances: where

a)parliamentary proceedings are taking place in Wales, out of respect for the spirit of the Welsh Language Act 1993:

b)it is for the convenience of those other than Members to be able to communicate in Welsh as their preferred language: ie witnesses appearing before a select committee whether at Westminster or elsewhere. In those circumstances Members may also ask questions in Welsh.

It should be added that evidence is quite frequently given in foreign languages to select committees, through interpreters: recent examples are the oral evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee in its inquiry into the migration crisis.50

9.There are some underlying issues of principle and practice which the Committee might bear in mind:

a)Debate between Members obviously proceeds best where all Members can immediately and directly understand one another: simultaneous interpretation can assist but not replicate direct communication. Set against that is the possibility that for some Members it is easier to express themselves in Welsh, and it is arguably their choice if something is lost in translation

b)The Chair of a debating committee has to enforce the rules of the House, advised by a Clerk: if either or both are dependent on interpretation there is a theoretical risk that disorderly proceedings may occur either unchecked or checked later than would otherwise be the case. I understand there has not to date been any such problem with Welsh Grand Committee debates in Wales where Welsh has been used.

c)Parliamentary proceedings are recorded: until now proceedings in Welsh have been published in Hansard or as committee evidence in English, based on a transcription of the interpretation. That has not to date given rise to controversy. It is for consideration if there should not also be an official record of a speech as delivered ie in Welsh [see below].

d)Proceedings are watched and listened to by the public. Simultaneous interpretation can be made available in the room, but not so readily on the digital AV record. Transmission of proceedings parts of which were not comprehensible to all those watching or listening remotely would not sit well with the House’s policies on transparency.

e)There is I believe no demand for reverse interpretation ie English into Welsh, nor any suggestion that Welsh should be used other than in the Welsh Grand. In that respect the current issue is very far from the introduction of a bilingual or multilingual regime in Parliament [as is common in many parliaments], or from affording Welsh equal status with English as the language of Parliament. But the Committee may wish to consider if the small further relaxation sought has implications for, or unintended consequences on, other parliamentary proceedings.

Staff

10.We currently have one senior Clerk who has both the procedural expertise and the linguistic fluency to advise the Chair on anything that might arise instantly on a speech made in the Welsh language, and two Hansard reporters who have the necessary fluency in Welsh to report speeches given in Welsh. It is by no means a given that these staff would always be available to clerk or record meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee at Westminster. Our default expectation is therefore that staff would rely on simultaneous interpretation, and that procedural points would be raised in English.

Transcript in Welsh

11.The Editor of the Official Report could give the Procedure Committee more detailed evidence on the practicalities and costs of producing a verbatim transcript of what is said in Welsh, alongside a translation of those remarks into English. I understand from him that it could lead to some delay in production; require some minor technical adaptations to deal with accents; and involve slight additional cost. One possibility might be to make an arrangement with the National Assembly for assistance with either transcription or translation or both, drawing on their expertise and technical skills. If Welsh were allowed as a language of debate at Westminster I would be more comfortable if the formal record of proceedings were published in both the language as delivered [Welsh] and in English, with the oral simultaneous translation merely an interim aid to debate. That need not of itself require identical arrangements for select committee evidence.

Cost of interpretation and equipment

12.The Attlee Suite in Portcullis House is currently the only meeting room on the estate permanently equipped with sound-proof booths for interpreters.51 Under arrangements overseen by the Administration Committee, the Attlee Suite is booked up for large events many weeks in advance. As Welsh Grand Committee meetings are scheduled at relatively short notice, it would presumably be prohibitively disruptive to grant the Welsh Grand Committee precedence over booked events in the Attlee Suite, and it is not generally used for parliamentary proceedings. The House’s broadcasting contractor Bowtie has offered an approximate estimate of £3000 for the overall cost of providing simultaneous translation in another room, subject to the caveat that more work would be needed on the detailed costs. A more accurate costing exercise would need to be the subject of a formal quotation.

AV output

13.One issue which needs consideration is that the audio infrastructure in Parliament is mono audio. This means that the room output and recording would, without involving additional engineering and equipment, be provided in either English or Welsh. It would plainly be important that whatever was broadcast was both comprehensible and authoritative. That need not of course affect the decision in principle to be made by the Committee.

Conclusion

14.To extend the permission for Members to speak Welsh in proceedings of the Welsh Grand Committee to proceedings at Westminster may seem a small step, but the Procedure Committee will be sensitive to any wider implications of extending to the Welsh language a marginally more formal status in parliamentary proceedings than it currently enjoys.

David Natzler

Clerk of the House

March 2016

Annex 1: Extracts from Hansard

14 January 2016: Business Questions columns 1016–1017

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Welsh Grand Committee meets from time to time. Indeed, I think he appeared in front of it in Wrexham once. He will therefore be aware that any time the Committee meets in Wales, its members may make representations and speak in either English or Welsh. However, when the Committee meets in a Committee Room in this place, its members are permitted to use only English. In view of the fact that there are two official languages in Wales, and that we have a Welsh Grand Committee coming up on 3 February, will the right hon. Gentleman make a commitment that all its members may use either English or Welsh?

Chris Grayling: I will not give the hon. Lady a commitment about that, but she makes a serious point and I will take a look at it. Clearly it is important that that happens in Wales, and I was not aware that it was not possible in this building. I will go and take a look at that for her.

3 February 2016 (morning) Welsh Grand Committee column 3 [Albert Owen in the Chair] 

Draft Wales Bill

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Owen. A fortnight ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South raised in the Chamber the issue of the languages permitted in Grand Committee. She rightly pointed out that when this Committee meets in Wales, we can use either of the two beautiful languages of Wales. The Leader of the House said he was unaware that we are confined to one language when we meet in Westminster and said it was a serious point. Have you had any information from the Leader of the House on which languages will be permitted today?

The Chair: The hon. Member knows I have sympathy with the point he raises, but I have had advice that London is not in Wales and the rules have not changed, so the language of this Committee will be English. If Members wish to mention Welsh names or use Welsh phrases, I ask that they do so in English to follow. That is the ruling on the use of the Welsh language.

Annex 2: Meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee

Date

Business and matters considered

No. attending52

Start time/s

End time/s

Venue

30 Jun 1997

Oral Questions; The Government’s Programme for Wales

28

11:00

13:45

14:32

13:01 (suspended)

14:12 (suspended)53

16:28

Mold

18 Nov 1997

Oral Questions; North Wales and the Government’s Proposals for a Welsh Assembly

26

10:30

12:58

16 Dec 1997

Oral Questions; Government Expenditure in Wales in 1998-99

28

10:30

13:00

5 May 1998

Oral Questions; The Rural Economy in Wales

27

11:0254

11:47

14:00

11:37 (suspended)

13:16 (suspended)

16:28

Carmarthen

13 Jul 1998

Oral Questions; New Economic Agenda for Wales

25

11:00

13:37

13:00 (suspended)

16:29

Merthyr Tydfil

16 Dec 1998

Oral Questions; Government Expenditure in Wales 1999-2000 to 2001-2002

30

10:30

13:00

22 Feb 1999

Oral Questions; Transport Policy in Wales

24

11:00

13:45

13:02 (suspended)

16:04

Aberaeron

14 Dec 1999

Oral Questions; The Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech and the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report as they relate to Wales

27

28

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

4 Apl 2000

Oral Questions; The Budget Statement and its Implications for Wales

29

29

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

16 May 2000

Oral Questions; Health Expenditure (morning)

Welsh Economy (afternoon)

27

27

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

20 Jun 2000

Oral Questions; Social Exclusion in Wales

28

10:30

16:00

13:00 (suspended)

18:00

19 Jul 2000

Statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review; Oral Questions; Comprehensive Spending Review

29

10:30

12;15

11 Dec 2000

The Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech and the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Statement as they relate to Wales

25

23

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

13 Feb 2001

Oral Questions; Building Safer Communities in Wales

27

27

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:3055,

12 Mar 2001

Oral Questions; Budget Statement and its Implications for Wales

25

10:32

14:01

13:00 (suspended)

16:00

Cwmbran

3 Jul 2001

Oral Questions; The Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales

33

27

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

28 Nov 2001

Oral Questions; The Pre-Budget Statement and its implications for Wales; Statement on Employment

28

28

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

24 Apl 2002

Oral Questions; The Budget Statement and its implications for Wales

33

29

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

16 Jul 2002

Statements on the Spending Review 2002 as it affects Wales and on Coal Aid in the United Kingdom and Wales; Draft National Health Service (Wales) Bill

31

25

10:30

16:00

13:00

18:00

21 Nov 2002

Oral Questions; The Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales; Adjournment: Welsh Steel Industry

31

28

8.55

14.00

11.25

16:30

5 Dec 2002

The Pre-Budget Report; Adjournment: Sand and Gravel Extraction

25

19

8.55

14.00

11.25

16.23

24 Jun 2003

Oral Questions; The Economy in Wales

27

28

8.55

14.00

11.25

16.00

15 Jul 2003

The Draft Public Audit (Wales) Bill

22

8.55

9:50

16 Dec 2003

Government’s Legislative Programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales and Public Expenditure in Wales

23

20

8.55

14.00

11.25

15.50

24 Mar 2004

The Budget Statement and its Implications for Wales

22

22

8.50

14.00

11.25

16:00

6 Jul 2004

The Report of the Richard Commission

27

25

9:25

14:00

11:25

16:25

20 Jul 2004

The Draft (Transport) Wales Bill

17

9:25

11:36

7 Dec 2004

The Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales and Public Expenditure in Wales

24

24

9:25

14:00

11:25

16:17

23 Jun 2005

The Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales

28

13:00

17:30

19 Apl 2006

The Budget Implications for Wales

26

21

9:00

14:00

11:25

16:00

13 Dec 2006

Government’s Legislative Programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales and Public Expenditure in Wales

25

17

9:00

14:00

11:25

16:00

12 Dec 2007

Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales and Public Expenditure in Wales

28

18

9:00

14:00

11:25

16:00

26 Mar 2008

Oral Questions; The Budget Statement and its implications for Wales

29

22

9:25

14:00

11:25

16:29

18 Jun 2008

Oral Questions; Statement on UK Energy Strategy; The Future of Energy in Wales

29

19

9:00

14:00

11:25

16:00

17 Dec 2008

Oral Questions; Public Expenditure in Wales

27

22

9:00

14:00

11:25

16:04

21 Jan 2009

The Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales

23

17

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:04

6 May 2009

Budget statement and its financial implications for Wales

29

23

9:25

14:00

11:25

15:58

14 Oct 2009

Ninth Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Welsh Language) Order 2009, HC348, and its implications for Wales

26

19

9:25

14:00

11:25

15:57

16 Dec 2009

Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales and Government expenditure in Wales

23

17

9:25

14:00

11:25

15:58

30 Jun 2010

Statement on the Budget as it relates to Wales; Legislative Programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech and Budget Statement (Wales)

35

33

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:03

1 Dec 2010

Statement on the implications for Wales of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review; Implications for Wales of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review

33

27

9:30

14:30

11:25

16:3056

10 Mar 2011

Oral Questions; The UK Government’s energy policy as it relates to Wales

31

25

9:00

14:30

10:25

16:30

30 Mar 2011

Statement on the Budget as it relates to Wales; Oral Questions; Budget as it relates to Wales

27

22

9:30

14:30

11:25

16:4557

20 Oct 2011

Statement on the Government’s Work programme and its implications for Wales; Government’s Work programme and its implications for Wales

22

11:00

14:00

13:00 (suspended)

15:58

Wrexham

8 Feb 2012

Oral Questions; UK Government’s agricultural policy as it relates to Wales

35

24

9:30

14:30

11:25

16:4558

20 Jun 2012

Oral Questions; Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech and the Budget statement as they relate to Wales

33

33

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:00

23 Jan 2013

Oral Questions; First Report of the Commission on Devolution in Wales, Empowerment and Responsibility: Financial Powers to Strengthen Wales

30

24

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:00

12 Jun 2013

Government’s Legislative Programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales

33

25

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:00

24 Jan 2014

Autumn Statement as it relates to Wales

31

24

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:1559

5 Feb 2014

Government Response to Part 1 of the Commission on Devolution in Wales

28

22

9:30

14:00

11:25

15:59

7 May 2014

Budget as it relates to Wales

25

22

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:00

16 Jul 2014

Government’s legislative programme as outlined in the Queen’s Speech as it relates to Wales

19

17

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:00

3 Feb 2016

Draft Wales Bill

36

27

9:30

14:00

11:25

16:00

Annex 3: First Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, Session 2000–01, HC 47

The Procedure Committee has agreed to the following Report:—

USE OF THE WELSH LANGUAGE BY SELECT COMMITTEE WITNESSES

1.In 1996 our predecessor Committee inquired into the use of the Welsh language in parliamentary proceedings in Wales. Its ensuing report60 noted that the Welsh Affairs Committee had, as long ago as 1981, agreed guidelines to govern the taking of evidence in Welsh at public oral evidence sessions in Wales. Our predecessors endorsed those guidelines, in an amended form, as a basis for any future select committee proceedings in Wales at which Welsh might be used.61 They further recommended that members of the Welsh Grand Committee should be entitled to address the Committee in Welsh at any meeting of the Committee in Wales; and that simultaneous translation facilities be provided where necessary both for the Welsh Grand and for select committees.62 These recommendations were approved by the House on 5th June 1996, in the following terms:

That, whilst English is and should remain the language of this House, the use of Welsh be permitted in parliamentary proceedings held in Wales, subject to the conditions set out in the Third Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, Session 1995–96 (House of Commons Paper No. 387).

2.In February 1998 we produced a short report which recommended a variation in the conditions approved by the House, to allow Members to change languages in the course of a speech.63 This report was approved by the House on 20 March 1998.

3.Hitherto the use of Welsh has only been permitted in parliamentary proceedings within Wales. The Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Mr Martyn Jones MP, has written to us urging that the rules be changed to permit witnesses to speak Welsh in committee meetings at Westminster also, with simultaneous translation.64 Mr Jones did not consider that his committee would seek to make extensive use of this facility, but he felt it important that first-language Welsh-speakers should be able to use Welsh if they choose either because they feel more comfortable speaking in that language or simply out of pride in the language. He noted that “the current Welsh Language Act was enacted in 1993, and the advent of devolution has given considerable impetus to bilingualism in public affairs even where the provision of Welsh is not a strict legal requirement”.

4.We have given careful consideration to this matter, and believe that Mr Jones has advanced a sensible and modest proposal which should be adopted. We note the following arguments in favour of doing so:—

a)it would remove the incongruity whereby the Welsh Affairs Committee can operate in Wales in a way that it is not allowed to do at Westminster (something that is difficult to explain to witnesses);

b)it would acknowledge the special status enjoyed by the Welsh language not only as a medium of communication but as a symbol of cultural inheritance—a status which is recognised in law (the Welsh Language Act 1993) in a way which is not the case with any other non-English language spoken in the UK; and

c)it would remove a perverse incentive to spend public money (because under the existing rules the Committee can take evidence as it wishes by choosing to meet in Wales rather than London, with the concomitant travel and subsistence costs).

5.We sought advice from the Clerk of Committees on the likely costs of providing simultaneous translation at Westminster. This information is given in a note appended to this report.65 We consider that these are costs which could reasonably be borne by the House in the same way that it bears the costs of other support services for select committees. We also note the point made by the Clerk of Committees, that since the opening of Portcullis House, the House now has dedicated facilities for simultaneous translation which were lacking before.

6.For these reasons we recommend that the House should approve the use of Welsh by select committee witnesses at Westminster, subject to the same conditions as those previously approved by the House in relation to proceedings in Wales.

7.When our successors in the next Parliament review the subject of the procedural consequences of devolution (following up our report made last year66), we believe that it would be valuable for them to investigate how the fully bilingual policy adopted by the National Assembly for Wales has worked in practice, and whether there are any implications or lessons for practice at Westminster.

Annex 4: First Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, Session 1997–98, HC 461

FIRST REPORT

The Procedure Committee has agreed to the following Report:-

Use of the Welsh language in Parliamentary Proceedings in Wales

Origin of inquiry

1.On 1st May 1996 our predecessor Committee approved a Report setting out the rules to be observed for the use of the Welsh language at meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales.67 The most significant of these was that Members should restrict themselves to one language in the course of any one speech, question or intervention.68 The reason for this restriction was the perceived risk that the problems of attempting subsequently to piece together a mixture of English and Welsh translation without transposing text could cast significant doubt on the ability of staff of the Official Report to produce an accurate report of proceedings.69

2.The Welsh Grand Committee met in Wales for the first time at Mold on 30 June 1997. The opportunity to speak in Welsh was widely welcomed, but the view was also expressed that the rule referred to above acted as an undue constraint on Members. The Leader of the House subsequently suggested amending the rule to allow Members to change from one language to another not more than twice in the course of a speech, so that they could (for example) begin in Welsh, continue in English and conclude in Welsh.70 We agreed to undertake a short inquiry into the practicability of this suggestion.

3.We wrote to all members of the Welsh Grand Committee asking for their views on the proposed change, to the Editor of the Official Report, and to the Shorthand Writer. We then took oral evidence from Rt Hon Barry Jones, MP, Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee, accompanied by Mr Paul Silk, Clerk of the Committee, and from Mr Ian Church, Editor of the Official Report, accompanied by Lorraine Sutherland, Assistant Editor in charge of proceedings at Mold.

Changing language during the course of a speech

4.We received 19 replies to our letter to members of the Welsh Grand Committee. All but one supported the amendment. Three replies suggested that no restriction was needed on the number of times a Member changed from one language to another in the course of a speech, citing the practice in local government in Wales. This raised the possibility of changing the rule to a greater extent than suggested by the Leader of the House in her original letter to us and allowing Members to change from one language to another as and when they wished.

5.In his reply to our original letter, the Editor of the Official Report expressed the opinion that, following experience of the meeting of the Committee in Mold, his staff would be able to cope quite adequately with the change as proposed, provided that the standard of interpretation did not fall below that which was available at Mold.71 When it was put to him in the course of questioning before the Committee that the rule might be further relaxed so as to allow Members to change from one language to another as many times as they wished, he was able to confirm that, subject to the same caveat as regards the standard of interpretation, such greater flexibility would not impair the ability of his staff to produce an accurate report of proceedings.72 Ms Sutherland agreed with this.73 Neither the Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee, nor the Clerk, could see any objection to this greater flexibility being permitted.74 We therefore recommend that, subject to the conditions set out below, there be no restriction on the use of Welsh in proceedings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales.

Power of the Chair to direct a Member to use English

6.At present, the Chair is “empowered to direct any Member to address the Chair in English so that there can be direct communication between the Chair and a Member, particularly where the maintenance of order is concerned”75. The Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee suggested that the Chair might be given discretion to require a Member to use one language only, to be used if a Member was trying to disrupt the work of the Committee by swapping languages every few words.76 We think it unlikely that our recommendation above, if accepted by the House, would be abused in order to disrupt the Committee’s proceedings. However, in order to ensure the good maintenance of order in the Committee at all times, we recommend that the Chairman should have power to insist that a Member restrict himself or herself to one language only, and furthermore, if necessary, to specify which language that should be.

Interventions

7.One of the members of the Welsh Grand Committee, in his response to our letter, felt that interventions on non-Welsh speakers such as himself should only be taken in English.77 Whilst making a speech in English, Members would not necessarily be wearing their headphones, and there is thus some potential for confusion.78 The Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee said that, should such a situation occur, he would expect a Member to be able to field the translation of the intervention quite adequately.79 However, he would be surprised if such a situation arose. Firstly, Members needed to make their point clearly not just within the confines of the Committee, but also beyond. Secondly, good manners would normally suggest that interventions should not be made on a Member in a language in which he or she is not fluent. We agree. If a Member were so discourteous as to intervene repeatedly in Welsh when it was inappropriate to do so, we trust that the Chairman would use the powers to direct the use of one language only that we have recommended in paragraph 6 above to require him or her to make the intervention in English.

Points of order, &c.

8.We wish to reiterate the rules that points of order and communications with the staff of the Committee should be in English, in order to ensure the smoothest possible running of the Committee.80 We also wish to remind Members of the requirements to give notice of their intention to speak in Welsh, at the latest when called to speak or to put a question, and to table motions and written questions in English.

Resources

9.We note that the additional cost arising from the bilingual nature of proceedings at Mold falls well within the amount envisaged by the Clerk of the House in his memorandum to our predecessor Committee in the course of the original inquiry.81 We have been assured that the change in the rules recommended in this Report would not have any cost implications for meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales.82

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

a)We recommend that there be no restriction on the use of Welsh in proceedings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales, subject to the conditions set out below (paragraph 5).

b)We recommend that the Chairman should have power to insist that a Member restrict himself or herself to one language only, and, if necessary, to specify which language that should be (paragraph 6).

Annex 5: Third Report from the Procedure Committee, Session 1995–96, HC 387

Use of the Welsh language in Parliamentary proceedings in Wales

The Procedure Committee has agreed to the following Report:

Origin of inquiry

1.On 11th March 1996 the House gave its approval to new Standing Orders for the Welsh Grand Committee, providing for an expanded role for the Committee. In the course of debate, the view was expressed by a number of Members that speeches in Welsh should be permitted in the Welsh Grand Committee at meetings in Wales. The Leader of the House suggested that the appropriate course would be to ask the Procedure Committee to consider the matter.83 In subsequent correspondence with the Committee, he emphasised that it was a matter for the House to decide, and that he would give the House an opportunity to take a decision on the basis of a Committee Report.84 The Shadow Leader of the House supported the proposal that the use of the Welsh language in the proceedings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales should be permitted, as did the Chairman of that Committee.85 We agreed to undertake a swift inquiry, and to expand the subject under consideration to include all parliamentary proceedings in Wales.

2.It should be emphasised that the language of the proceedings of the House of Commons and its committees is English: it has been English for many centuries: and it should in our view remain English. As the Clerk of the House put it in his memorandum, the principle is that-

“any proceedings of the House must be comprehensible to all Members, and must therefore be in the only language all Members are assumed to understand.’86

Powerful grounds of public policy must be adduced to justify any derogation from this principle: and no derogation so made should be seen as undermining the basic principle. Were the House to agree to the proposals we set out below for the use of the Welsh language in some parliamentary proceedings in Wales, that could lead eventually to similar demands from those speaking other minority languages, and for demands for Welsh to be permitted at Westminster. But we are confident that a clear distinction can and must be drawn between a minority language which enjoys— as does the Welsh language in Wales — a special statutory status, and those which, however widely spoken in particular areas or otherwise supported, do not. If there were any suggestion that permitting a small derogation from the broad principle that English was the language of parliamentary proceedings would open the floodgates to further derogations, we would not contemplate recommending to the House any change to current practice.

Welsh Language Act 1993

3.The special status of the Welsh language in Wales is enshrined in the Welsh Language Act 1993. It should be noted that the Act does not apply to parliamentary proceedings. Nor does the Act, as is sometimes implied, establish a general principle of equality of status for the two languages, a practice foreign to our law. The Act laid an obligation on specified public bodies to prepare schemes giving effect to the principle that in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality, and gave the Welsh Language Board the statutory duty of advising on ways in which effect must be given to that principle. Finally, it may be observed that the schemes to be prepared are to give effect to the principle of equality “so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable.”87 Should the House decide not to alter its long-standing practice of conducting parliamentary proceedings exclusively in English, wherever they may be held, it need not fear being in breach of any statutory requirement.

General principle

4.As a general principle, we would recommend changes to the long-standing practice of the House only on very good grounds, particularly in such a fundamental matter as the language of proceedings. Having considered the terms of the Welsh Language Act 1993, however, and in the light of the views expressed in the debate on 11th March and in evidence to us, we are persuaded that there is a good case for this very narrow and constrained derogation from the general rule to be permitted. We recommend accordingly that the use of the Welsh language be permitted-in parliamentary proceedings in Wales’ subject to the conditions set out below. At the same time, we would welcome the affirmation in a formal Resolution of the House of the general principle that parliamentary proceedings should be in English.

Welsh Grand Committee

Provision of interpretation

5.If the Welsh language is to be used, it is evident that simultaneous interpretation into English will have to be provided, for the benefit of the Chairman, Members of the Committee, officers of the Committee and the staff of the Official Report, and, subject to additional expenditure required being within reasonable limits, to the public. The permanent facilities required for such a service are not as widespread as may be believed, although the Welsh Language Board has stated that “many of the new county authorities are currently considering the provision of permanent facilities as part of their Welsh language schemes”.88 High quality portable equipment, including earphones, can however readily be hired. The Clerk of the House has advised us that costs of around £2,500 could be anticipated for a typical sitting.89 On the assumption that only a handful of such sittings each year are envisaged, expenditure on this scale is not excessive.

6.We have considered whether it would be acceptable for the Welsh Grand Committee to meet in Wales in a place where simultaneous interpretation was not available, if, for example, that were explicitly agreed to by the House when asked to agree to a proposed place and time of meeting under Standing Order No. 98G.90 We consider that Members should be entitled to address the Committee in Welsh at any meeting of the Committee in Wales. Simultaneous interpretation facilities will therefore have to be provided.

7.Interpretation would be from Welsh into English. The Welsh Language Board confirmed in evidence that—

“simultaneous interpretation from English into Welsh is not normally provided, as nearly all Welsh speakers can understand English sufficiently well to follow the proceedings completely.”91

We recommend that interpretation be provided only from Welsh to English.

Rules of debate &c.

8.We recommend that the right of Members to address the Committee in the Welsh language be subject to the following conditions—

a)any Members proposing to speak in Welsh should give the Chairman notice in English of their intention to do so, at the latest when called to speak or to put a question; earlier notice would however obviously be helpful to the Chair and all concerned;92

b)that Members should restrict themselves to one language in the course of any one speech, question or intervention;93

c)that points of order should be raised only in English; the Chairman should be empowered to direct any Member to address the Chair in English so that there can be direct communication between the Chair and a Member particularly where the maintenance of order is concerned;94and that all communications with parliamentary officers and staff attending the Committee should be in English.95

Privilege

9.The oral interpretation rendered into English of proceedings in Welsh, subsequently transcribed by the Official Report and duly published, will have to be accepted as parliamentary proceedings in every respect. Any response by a non-Welsh speaking Member to what has been said in Welsh will of course be to the interpretation rather-than the original words. We would regard the English interpretation of proceedings in Welsh, if done in good faith as part of proceedings in Parliament and so protected in full by the Bill of Rights.96 Similarly, such interpretation should have status equal to that of a Member’s own words for the purposes of the terms under which the Official Report operates.97

Papers

10.There is no need for the production of a Welsh language version of the Order Paper for the Welsh Grand Committee, nor for the official production of a Welsh language Official Report of proceedings. Both the Order Paper and the Official Report are House of Commons papers and designed to be accessible to all Members of the House.98 Should some outside body wish to produce Welsh language versions of these documents, however, there is no reason why they should not approach the appropriate House authorities.

Official Report

11.There is no doubt that the introduction of the use of Welsh language in the Welsh Grand Committee will create particular practical problems for the Official Report. The memorandum from the Editor sets these out and proposes solutions. The House will have to accept that the quality of reported speech will suffer from interpretation, and that the scope for disagreement over the text is enhanced when “the intermediate process of translation is introduced’.99 There will also be a 2-hour delay in the normal timetable for publication of the proceedings of a sitting of the Welsh Grand Committee, to allow for the process of validating, in the event of any controversy, the text of speeches originally given in Welsh. We recommend that the Official Report be allocated sufficient contingency funds to enable it to use the occasional services of a Welsh speaker for the validation of the recorded interpretation against the Welsh original, in the event of dispute.

Select committees

12.Select Committees, principally but not exclusively the Welsh Affairs Committee, have in the past held public oral evidence sessions in Wales, and are of course likely to do so in future. In advance of evidence sessions held in the Gwynedd Council Chamber in Caernarfon in February 1981, during which evidence was heard in Welsh, the Welsh Affairs Committee agreed arrangements for the use of the Welsh language in such proceedings.100 We consider that these-guidelines could form the basis of any future Select Committee proceedings in Wales at which Welsh might be used, subject to several amendments and clarifications as below:

a)Each Select Committee proposing to hold an evidence session in Wales should decide in advance whether or not it is willing to hear oral evidence in Welsh, the presumption being in favour of the use of Welsh by those witnesses wo so wish;

b)Where a Committee has resolved to permit evidence to be given in Welsh, we consider that the necessary facilities should be provided without requirement for special authorisation;

c)Translation should be by simultaneous interpretation, rather than consecutive interpretation as in the past. The Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee pointed out that “part of the reason for taking evidence away from Westminster is to hear people in their working environment or in a setting that is directly relevant to the inquiry…”101 Such locations will not of course be fitted with simultaneous translation facilities; but portable equipment can readily be hired

d)Witnesses and Members should give notice of their intention to speak in Welsh

e)Witnesses and Members should give notice of their intention to speak in Welsh, the former on the basis of advance inquiry by the Committee, and should not thereafter switch from one language to another except as directed by the Chairman;

f)Members should be permitted to put Questions in Welsh only where simultaneous interpretation facilities are already provided because of Welsh-speaking witnesses;

g)The transcript taken by the shorthand writer will be of the interpretation; there will have to be a tape recording made of the original welsh language evidence for verification when necessary;

h)It should be clearly understood that Members should use English in private deliberation in Committee.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

13.English is and should remain the language of the House of Commons: we would welcome the affirmation of this general principle in a formal Resolution of the House;

a)In the light of the views expressed in the House in the debate on llth March 1996 and in evidence to us, and the principle enshrined in the Welsh Language.Act.1993 that the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality in the conduct of public business in Wales, we recommend that the use of the Welsh language be permitted in parliamentary proceedings held in Wales;

b)Members should be entitled to address the Welsh Grand Committee in Welsh at any meeting of the Committee in Wales, subject to the conditions set out in paragraph 8;

c)Any Select Committee proposing to hold an oral evidence session in Wales should decide in advance if it is willing to hear oral evidence in Welsh, such evidence sessions to be subject to the conditions set out in paragraph 12;

d)Simultaneous interpretation from Welsh to English should be provided for the Welsh Grand Committee and Select Committees; the Official Report and the Shorthand writer may require the occasional services of a Welsh speaker for purposes of verification.


40 Annex 5

41 CJ (1995–96) 390

42 Annex 1

43 Third Report of Session 1995–96 (HC 387) see Annex 5; First Report of Session 1997–98 (HC 461) see Annex 4.

44 Stg Co Deb (1997–98), Welsh Grand Committee, 30 June 1997, c 27 ff.

45 CJ (1995–96) 390; ibid (1997–98) 459. The permission also applies to other parliamentary proceedings in Wales, such as meetings of the Welsh Affairs Committee.

46 Third Report of 1995–96 (Annex 5) paragraph 4 (emphasis added).

47 First Report of 1997–98 (Annex 4)

48 First Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, Session 2000–01, HC 47, paragraph 4 (Annex 2). If simultaneous interpretation is provided to allow witnesses to speak in Welsh, then members of the Committee may also put questions in Welsh.

49 See Third Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, Session 2003–04, HC 582, paragraph 3. No such joint meetings have yet been held at Westminster.

50 HC 427: evidence from the Mayor and Deputy Mayors of Calais (in French) on 8 September 2015, and from parliamentarians from Italy (in Italian) and Hungary (in Hungarian) on 26 January 2016.

51 Alluded to in the First Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, Session 2000–01, HC 47, paragraph 5 (Annex 3).

52 Includes Chair

53 Sitting suspended because of bomb scare

54 Technical problem with electricity supply resulting in translation service temporarily suspended

55 Includes time for suspension for divisions in the House (Hansard)

56 Includes time for suspension for division in the House

57 Includes time for suspension for division in the House

58 Includes time for suspension for division in the House

59 Includes time for suspension for division in the House

60 Procedure Committee, Third Report of 1995–96, Use of the Welsh Language in Parliamentary Proceedings in Wales (HC 387)

61 Ibid., para 12

62 Ibid., para 13

63 Procedure Committee, First Report of 1997–98, Use of the Welsh Language in Parliamentary Proceedings in Wales (HC 461)

64 Mr Jones’s letter is printed below as Appendix 1

65 Appendix 2.

66 Procedure Committee, Fourth Report of 1998–99, The Procedural Consequences of Devolution (HC 185).

67 Third Report from the Procedure Committee, Session 1995-96, Use of the Welsh Language in Parliamentary Proceedings in Wales, HC 387.

68 ibid, para 8(b)

69 ibid, Appendix 5, p.xxviii, para 9.

70 Ev. p. 10.

71 Ev. p. 6.

72 Qq.33, 34, 54, 55, 56, 60.

73 Q.35.

74 Qq.4, 5, 6, 7.

75 HC 387, para 8(c).

76 Q.28.

77 Ev. p. 13.

78 Qq.46, 47, 48.

79 Qq.25, 26, 27.

80 Q.28.

81 Ev. p. 5; HC 387, 1995–96, Appendix 8, para 10, p.xxxiii.

82 Qq.58, 59.

83 Official Report, 11 March 1996, cols 709–713.

84 Appendices I and 2, p.xxvi.

85 Appendix 3, p.xxvi: Appendix 4, p,xxvii.

86 Appendix 5, p.xxxii, para 4. For details of past and current practice, see ibid, paras 3 and 16

87 Section 5(2).

88 Appendix 9, p.xxxv.

89 Appendix 8, p.xxxiii, para.l0.

90 ibid, para.9.

91 Appendix 9, p.xxxv.

92 Appendix 8 para xxxiii, para 12(1); Appendix 5, p. xxvii, para 1(vii) and para 9. See s22 of the Welsh Language Act for similar provision for legal proceedings in high courts.

93 ibid, para 12(2); ibid, para 1 (vii) and page 9, setting out the practical problems likely to arise from any “mixed language” proceedings: Appendix 4, p.xxvii.

94 ibid, para 12(3).

95 Appendix 5, p.xxvii, para 1(ix) and 11.

96 See Appendix 8, p.xxxiii, para 13.

97 Appendix 5, p.xxvii, para 1(ii) and paras 3–5.

98 Appendix 8, p.xxxiii, paras 7 and 15.

99 Appendix 5, p.xxvii, para 4.

100 See Appendix 7, p.xxix.

101 ibid.




19 December 2016